It’s no surprise that Rob Gronkowski has been the best tight end in football for the last four years or so, but just exactly how good has he been. I don’t think it’s a question that if Gronk continues to perform at the same level as he is now, and manages to stay healthy, he will be in the Hall of Fame.
I, however, feel as though Gronk’s accolades have already earned him a spot in Canton. He has utterly redefined the tight end position. Never before have we witnessed anything close to what Gronk does week in and week out. He dominates defenses and terrifies defense backs. He is truly a remarkable athlete who has transcended the game.
What’s most remarkable about Gronk is that he has managed to take the league by storm in only a short amount of time. It seems as though it was only a few months ago that Rob caught his first touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, and proceeded to do his first ever patented spike. When Gronk first entered the league no one thought he would be what he is today. It was Hernanadez who was supposed to be the super star, and well, look where he ended up.
Gronk, however, was able to make the most of his early opportunities culminating in a fantastic sophomore season in 2012. A season that saw him catch 17 touch downs, and break almost every single season record for a tight end.
In Gronk’s short amount of time in the NFL he has managed to score more touchdowns than any other tight end at 54, and that includes two injury shortened seasons. Gronk is also tied with Randy Moss for most touch downs scored in a players first two seasons, at 28. He has done what no other tight end in the history of the league has done, and made tight ends a focal point for almost every offense.
Gronkowski is entering his sixth year as a pro, and what is truly amazing is that defenses have yet to figure out how to properly cover him. He is a total mismatch as opposing defenders need the size of linebacker, yet the speed of a defensive back in order to stop him. In fact, one of the only players who might be able to cover him is Jamie Collins and he’s on the Pats.
Gronkowski has torn up opposing defenses for many years now, but it is his recent success in the playoffs that gives him that extra edge over other tight ends. His consistent performances in playoff games prove that he is a legitimate player who can come through in the games when he is needed most.
Now I know it’s not really fair to do this, but Tony Gonzalez only won one playoff game in his entire career. Yes he didn’t have the best teams and he didn’t have Brady as his quarterback, but until his last year in Atlanta, Gonzalez was not a good playoff performer. In his first five playoff games, he only played in seven by the way, he only caught 16 balls for 157 yards and no touchdowns. To put that in perspective, through Gronk’s first five playoff games, not including his game against Houston where he was injured early, he caught 28 balls for 431 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Now, you have to keep in mind that Tony Gonzalez is considered to be the best tight end of all time, and, in the playoffs at least, Gronk has well out preformed him. He is a true champion who knows how to win big games.
However, what most impresses me about Gronk is his mental toughness and drive to win. It has been seen throughout the years in the NFL that when offensive super stars get pushed around and punched in the mouth, they tend to fold up and become shells. From the old Raiders defenses of the 70’s, to the Patriots beating up the Colts in ’03, to most recently the Seattle Seahawks dismantling the Bronco’s receivers in the Super Bowl, defenses have loved to torture soft teams and soft players.
Now, Jimmy Graham, arguably the second best tight end behind Gronkowski, is no stranger to this trend. Back in 2013 in Graham’s game versus the Patriots, Graham was matched up on pro-bowl corner Aqib Talib. Talib tormented Graham with his physical play and eventually caused Graham to leave the game. He finished with zero catches and proved that he is a soft player who could be bullied.
Gronk, on other hand, is a player that you do not want to mess with. Just ask Sergio Brown. To give Brown credit he did one of the better jobs containing Gronk that I have seen, but containing is the key word there. Because no matter how well you play against Gronk or how physical you are with him, you cannot hold him down.
In the week 11 game versus the Colts, Brown had his way with Gronk for the majority, but instead of lying down and calling a quits like Graham, Gronk simply picked Brown up and promptly drove him 30 feet out of bounds into the NBC broadcast cameras. (Rumor has it Sergio Brown is still there, buried in the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium.) He later followed up that play with a highlight reel touch down that saw him spin, juke, and hurtle his way across the goal line.
This is a small aspect of Gronk’s game, but it shows a lot about him. It is an important quality to never back down and it is rarely seen in offensive players today. I said the same thing about Julian Edelman in an early post, but I feel as though when a player demonstrates this type of play on the field it should be acknowledged.
What we need to understand here is that Gronk is a once in a generation kind of player, and even though he has only played five years, we will probably never witness a player quit like him, and it is for that reason that I feel that Gronk could easily be a Hall of Famer at this point in his career. He has redefined the tight end and position, and boy am I glad to have him on my side.
By Jake Cianci